Northern Ireland’s only gay rugby team has been accused of promoting a form of apartheid by the country’s Sports Minister.

According to the BBC, Edwin Poots, a member of the anti-gay Democratic Unionist Party, was quoted as saying that, “I just cannot fathom why people see the necessity to develop an apartheid in sport,” referring to Belfast’s Ulster Titans gay rugby team.

Poots previously tried to bar same-sex couples from holding civil partnerships in the town hall in Lisburn, where he is a councillor.

“It would be unacceptable to produce an all-black rugby team or an all-white team or an all-Chinese team. To me it’s equally unacceptable to produce an all-homosexual rugby team and I find it remarkable that people who talk so much about inclusivity and about having an equal role in society would then go down the route of exclusion,” he said.

However, a spokesperson for the club, Declan Lavery, said that while the club was primarily founded to provide a comfortable space for gay sportsmen, the team was open to anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The club’s website states: “We are the Ulster Titans Rugby Club, open to all men regardless of age, experience, race or sexual orientation. Northern Ireland’s first team identifying with gay men and we are committed to equality, inclusion and the greatest sport in the world.”

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